In a full-page advertisement in Time magazine, war-conscious editors of The Plain Truth (a tabloid of Herbert W. Armstrong’s cult-sect Worldwide Church of God) ask, “How will you survive World War Three?” The Plain Truth, claiming to distribute 12 million copies in six languages, promises to give its readers the answer. Rajneesh is building his answer at Rajneeshpuram in Oregon, a city in which the jewels of culture and science are to be stored and later to be brought forth by his devotees after World War Three has decimated most of the planet, with the exception of Oregon, of course. Jim Jones, apart from his desire to be God, was motivated by a similar fear of nuclear destruction. Also advertising in Time, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Transcendental Meditation (TM) offers every world government an Invincible Defense that will neutralize nuclear weapons. Humanist Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the famous Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, shared the anti-nuke platform at Stanford University in California with new age Sikh leader Yogi Bhajan of the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization and Ram Dass of the Hanuman Foundation. A recent Hare Krishna parade concluded with a public forum on nuclear disarmament. And last but not least, Benjamin Creme has offered relief from the fear of nuclear destruction by proclaiming that Maitreya the Christ is soon to emerge as a calming influence, if not a peaceful world ruler.
Those new religious personalities are rightfully concerned about the potential use of nuclear weapons and circumstances that could lead to the several dread hours of computer war. The desire for peace is honorable, the evaluation of threats to peace imperative. This past summer alone humanity witnessed four highly publicized wars--in the Falkiand Islands, in Beirut, Lebanon, in Afghanistan, and in Iran and Iraq--as well as the growth of a significant peace movement. Amidst all of the current stumping, politicking, publishing, and advertising by new religious movements regarding the nuclear threat, the public must put a stethoscope to the breast of those religions to listen for either the pulse of life or the voice of a clever public relations person. Maharish's advertisement in Time, therefore, invites comment, especially since the three-centimeter high block letter phrase “Invincible Defense,” printed close to his forehead, seems to emanate from his third eye.
TM’s expensive full-page advertisement, comprised of ten paragraphs~ one diagram, and a photograph of Maharishi, purports to be a communication from the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment to all world governments. They claim that their defense strategy relies totally on natural law and Vedic Hindu science. That claim brings to mind 3. Robert Oppenheimer’s quotation from the Bhagavad-Gita Hindu devotional poem as he watched the detonation of his atomic bomb in July 1945:
“I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.” As Oppenheimer suggested to the White House, so TM’s advertisement suggests to the world, “The technology has been developed, tested, and proved; now it is just a matter of applying it and gaining the invincible authority of the total potential of natural law.” That technology is not described, however. Neither are the test or the proven results. The playful reader could argue effectively that the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment has, in reality, developed the final word in the form of the final bomb. Those familiar with TM, however, will suspect that Maharishi is simply offering the world another form of Siddha Yoga which promises its practitioners the powers of invisibility or superhuman strength or levitation.
The advertisement, says Dr. Johannes Aagaard of Aarhus University, Denmark, is vacuous. It uses language without communicating meaningfully. On the other hand, Dr. Reinhart Hummel of the Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, Stuttgart, Germany, suggests that Maharishi’s advertisement makes sense within a Vedic Hindu worldview, particularly if each citizen on this globe becomes a meditator. Aagaard counters that Maharishi has left his genuine Hindu heritage and, consequently, relates ineffectively to both the East and the West on the nuclear issue. Whereas much could be said in defense of both perspectives, the real question is not Maharishi’s religious pedigree but whether his religious solution, whatever it is, can be taken seriously.
Circumstances indicate that the World Government of the Age of Enlightenment has not given the world a face-value offer. First, although TM’s headquarters are located in Seelisberg, Switzerland, its leaders have not traveled to nearby Geneva to offer their resources to negotiators at the arms reduction talks. They chose, instead, to advertise in an international magazine. Second, Maharishi offered in January 1981 to create a nuclear deterrent along India’s extensive coastline by stationing an army of TM teachers in 3,000 strategically placed centers along the Indian Ocean. Indira Gandhi’s government rejected Maharishi’s proposal, a rejection from a Hindu culture which, above all, should affirm that religious heritage and accept the offer of a favorite son. Yet, that proposal is now, some 20 months later, being offered to an even less credulous audience. Finally, evidence that TM1s supposed meditation powers could create an Invincible Defense should be measurable in other TM endeavors. One such reality test for their defense project is the TM-owned factories throughout India. According to journalists, those businesses are economic failures. The time set aside for meditating at the factories has neither influenced workers nor made the factories financially successful. The world environment is far less accommodating than Maharishi’s factories and Invincible Defense much more difficult to produce than TM’s repertoire of commodities.
Those three considerations weigh heavily on the genuineness of Maharishi’s “gift of Invincibility to Every Nation” which, incidentally, inaugurates TM’s Silver Jubilee (1957-1982). The thoughtful reader can detect the artful voice of an advertising agency in this promotional piece--a voice that relates to people concerned about nuclear weapons but is unable to offer substantial aid. The offer of Invincible Defense would be self-discrediting and counterproductive were it not for the sentiments it does communicate about a very serious problem. The advertisement is good copy for a business enterprise, but it fails to honor TM’s own religious purpose or even the laws of nature.
In contrast to the simple sentiment expressed in Maharishi’s advertisement, the American Roman Catholic Church has adopted a deliberate, thoughtful approach to the nuclear arms issue. In their proposal, one can hear the pulse of life in the breast of a religion. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops met in November to discuss a pastoral letter on the morality of nuclear war addressed to 51 million American Catholics. Research on that letter, called “The Challenge of Peace,” includes interviews and correspondence with National Security Adviser William Clark, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and National Coordinator of the Nuclear Freeze Campaign Randall Kehler, among others. The Bishops have taken their two-year task (to be completed in May 1983) seriously. Their second draft was influenced by 1,000 pages of Bishops’ reactions to their first one and is a careful approach to the nuclear question. Maharishi and any other new religious leaders who serve up presumption on such a sensitive issue would do well to consider the Catholic Bishops’ response. Their constructive deliberations indicate that the Christian faith is relevant to more than just the nuclear issue, providing a depth of knowledge and morality that is sometimes lacking in the belief systems of today’s new religions.